Studio Visit - Pan Pottery
by BRÆR Studio·
Spending time with Gus and his family was a truly special time for us to reflect on the importance of living simply and filling up your life with all of the good things.
Gus, Bridget and their two children live on a special piece of land in Lake Wyeba just outside Noosa covered in ancient, significant trees and wild flowers. The Pan Pottery studio is a handmade building sitting amongst the trees alongside a large Catenery Arch kiln adopted from a noborigama kiln.
Gus started his journey into the world of pottery on a trip to India where he was inspired to learn the humble craft. He lived in a small village with a highly revered pottery family and trained under the master for 6 months. During his apprenticeship, his life was simple and disciplined. He spent every day with the other potters mostly doing the simple task of centering the clay on the wheel. He was eventually allowed to make chai cups towards the end of his time as a student.
Being a student for many months in the village, living with the other potters and mastering his skills in every aspect of wood firing and clay meant he made a strong connection to the people and the land there. Gus' pottery style is derived from learning to fire in a wood fired kiln called an Anagama, an ancient type of pottery kiln brought to Japan from China via Korea in the 5th century.
An anagama (a Japanese term meaning "cave kiln") consists of a firing chamber with a firebox at one end and a flue at the other.
We were honoured to be invited to participate in a wood firing and learn first hand the labour and energy used to create the special works of art Gus creates at Pan Pottery. Wood firing creates textures and glazes that an electric kiln could never achieve.
The fire, ash and their location in the kiln dictates how the piece looks. The wood fire kiln requires skill, intuition, patience and hard physical labour during the days leading up to the firing as well as throughout the firing process. Many hours are spent carefully packing the kiln so that every free bit of space is used whilst allowing the fire and ash to flow throughout the kiln. There are many days of cutting firewood and then slowly stoking the fire to have it reach the desired temperature.
It is hard to explain the feelings that are evoked tending to a kiln full of precious artworks. The pressure is akin to giving birth; the waves of intense heat from the fire are like contractions moving faster as the intensity builds.
The fire is powerful and the desire to master tending to her is addictive.
Gus taught us 3 women, Yaz, Azzmin & Tess how to throw the wood into the fire box of the kiln and how to watch the flames in the reflection of the studio glass doors coming out of the top of the chimney. We learnt how to intuitively feed the fire the right amount of timber to keep the temperature rising in the kiln, a fine balance that took us some time to tune into.
Tess places some wood into the fire box with thick leather gloves on.
A few things didn't go to plan during the firing as we were finding it difficult to raise the kiln temperature above 1250 degrees.
We stayed awake all night tending to the kiln, trying different techniques as instructed by Gus. Gus took a short nap in the studio nearby after being awake for days prior preparing the kiln. We were left in charge of taking care of the kiln over the following few hours. Feeling extremely nervous, we hoped to at least maintain the temperature in the kiln until Gus woke up.
The temperature gauge showing 1365 degrees!
Gus mudding up the final bricks of the kiln.
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